Special pleading is an informal fallacy wherein one cites something as an exception to a general or universal principle, without justifying the special exception.[1][2][3][4][5] It is the application of a double standard.[6][7]

In the classic distinction among material fallacies, cognitive fallacies, and formal fallacies, special pleading most likely falls within the category of a cognitive fallacy, because it would seem to relate to "lip service", rationalization, and diversion (abandonment of discussion). Special pleading also often resembles the "appeal to" logical fallacies.[8][9]

In medieval philosophy, it was not presumed that wherever a distinction is claimed, a relevant basis for the distinction should exist and be substantiated. Special pleading subverts a presumption of existential import.[citation needed][further explanation needed]


A difficult case is when a possible criticism is made relatively immune to investigation. This immunity may take the forms of:


This variation occurs when the interpretation of the relevant statistic is "massaged" by looking for ways to reclassify or requantify data from one portion of results, but not applying the same scrutiny to other categories.[11]

See also


  1. ^ "special pleading". English Oxford Living Dictionaries. Oxford University Press. Archived from the original on May 23, 2019. Retrieved 23 May 2019. Argument in which the speaker deliberately ignores aspects that are unfavourable to their point of view.
  2. ^ Damer, T. Edward (2008). Attacking Faulty Reasoning: A Practical Guide to Fallacy-free Arguments (6 ed.). Cengage Learning. pp. 122–124. ISBN 978-0-495-09506-4.
  3. ^ Engel, S. Morris (1994), Fallacies and Pitfalls of Language: The Language Trap, Courier Dover Publications, p. 102, ISBN 978-0-486-28274-9
  4. ^ Wheeler, Dr. L. Kip. "Logical Fallacies Handlist". Carson-Newman University (Study Guide). Room 309 in the English Department suite of Henderson 311. Archived from the original on 6 June 2023. Retrieved 23 May 2019. Special Pleading, in which the writer creates a universal principle, then insists that principle does not for some reason apply to the issue at hand.((cite web)): CS1 maint: location (link)
  5. ^ a b Dowden, Bradley. "Special Pleading". Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. California State University, Sacramento. Retrieved 23 May 2019. [A] form of inconsistency in which the reasoner doesn't apply [their] principles consistently…[T]he fallacy of applying a general principle to various situations but not applying it to a special situation that interests the arguer even though the general principle properly applies to that special situation, too.
  6. ^ LaMorte, Wayne W. "Fallacious Reasoning and Propaganda Techniques". Persuasive Messages. Boston University School of Public Health. Retrieved 23 May 2019. Special Pleading: committed by applying a double standard exemplified in choice of words.
  7. ^ Slick, Matt (18 May 2008). "Logical fallacies or fallacies in argumentation". Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry. Retrieved 23 May 2019. Special Pleading (double standard) - Applying a standard to another that is different from a standard applied to oneself.
  8. ^ This division is found in introductory texts such as Fallacy: The Counterfeit of Argument, W. Ward Fearnside, Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1959. OCLC 710677
  9. ^ "Special Pleading". Bruce Thompson's Fallacy Page. Palomar College: Critical Thinking (PHIL 200) [study guide]. Retrieved 23 May 2019. The argument defends a position by claiming that the opponent lacks the necessary perspective (experiences or credentials) to appreciate the position (or the arguments in support of it). This lack allegedly makes the opponent unqualified to critique the position... [t]his extreme version of Special Pleading is a tactic often used to argue that no action can be judged morally wrong, since no one has the perspective to be able to judge another person's moral code... [e.g.] 'My opponent can't know what's best for our fair community. He wasn't born and raised here, like I was.'
  10. ^ "Special Pleading". Bruce Thompson's Fallacy Page. Palomar College: Critical Thinking (PHIL 200) [study guide]. Retrieved 23 May 2019. 'You aren't like me, so you do not even have a right to think about or hold opinions on my plight'... [t]he fallacy of Special Pleading presupposes that some differences are so great that the human capacity of empathy cannot cross them.
  11. ^ Fischer, D. H. (1970), Historians' Fallacies: Toward A Logic of Historical Thought, Harper torchbooks (first ed.), New York: HarperCollins, pp. 110–113, ISBN 978-0-06-131545-9, OCLC 185446787